Paul Klee
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Paul Klee

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222 pages
English

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An emblematic figure of the early 20th century, Paul Klee participated in the expansive Avant-Garde movements in Germany and Switzerland. From the vibrant Blaue Reiter movement to Surrealism at the end of the 1930s and throughout his teaching years at the Bauhaus, he attempted to capture the organic and harmonic nature of painting by alluding to other artistic mediums such as poetry, literature, and, above all, music. While he collaborated with artists like August Macke and Alexej von Jawlensky, his most famous partnership was with the abstract expressionist, Wassily Kandinsky.

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Date de parution 15 septembre 2015
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ISBN: 978-1-78310-753-7
Paul Klee



PAUL KLEE
C ONTENTS


EXTRACTS FROM KLEE ’ S DIARIES
Childhood, Adolescence and Early Academic Years
Munich 1881-1901
Travels in Italy
October 1901 to May 1902
The First Years of his Studies, Marriage, and Educational Trips
A Soldier in World War Two
1914-1918
THEORETICAL WRITINGS
Nature as an Example
Art as Abstraction
Basics of Form and Composition
Linear-active
Linear-medial
Linear-passive
Linguistic analogy
Perspective
Construction in three dimensions
Lengthwise gradation
The horizontal
The scales
Asymmetrical balance
Structure (dividual articulation)
The representation of measure and weight
The chess board
The concept of structure in nature
Movement as the Highest Basis
The water mill [46]
The plant [47]
Circulatory system [48]
Productive and receptive movement
Succession, or the temporal function of a picture – Symbols of the figuration of movement
The spinning top
The pendulum
The circle
The spiral
The arrow
Tonality
Contrasts in colour temperature (cold and warm colours)
Synthesis of tonality-movement and temperature contrast
The dimension of tone value
The development of movement
The infinite movement: the colour circle
Review
INDEX
Juvenile Self-Portrait - Free , 1910.
Plume, pencil and black watercolour on
linen on cardboard, 17.5 x 15.9 cm .
Private collection, Switzerland.
EXTRACTS FROM KLEE’S DIARIES


Red and White Domes , 1914. Watercolour and
gouache on paper on cardboard, 14.6 x 13.7 cm .
Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf.


Childhood, Adolescence and Early Academic Years

Munich 1881-1901
I developed very early an aesthetic sensibility. Whilst I was still wearing skirts I was made to put on underwear that was too long for me, so that even I could see the grey flannel with the wavy red trimmings. When the doorbell rang I hid to keep the visitor from seeing me in this state (two to three years old).
My grandmother, Frau Frick, taught me very early to draw with crayons. Her dead body made a deep impression on me. No resemblance could be detected. We weren’t allowed to come close. And Aunt Mathilda’s tears flowed like a quiet brook. For a long time I shuddered whenever I passed the door leading down to the cellar of the hospital, where the corpse had been kept for a while. That the dead could terrify us, I had thus learned; but shedding tears appeared to me a custom reserved for adults (five years old).
Tramps often attacked me in my dreams. But, I always managed to escape by claiming to be a tramp myself. This ruse always helped me with my fellow students (about seven years old).
In the restaurant run by my uncle, the fattest man in Switzerland, were tables topped with polished marble slabs, whose surface displayed a maze of petrified layers. In this labyrinth of lines one could pick out human grotesques and capture them with a pencil. I was fascinated with this pastime; my “bent for the bizarre” announced itself (nine years old).
“His sister consoles him,” read the illustrated passage in a poem. But I didn’t put any high value on the sister’s consolation, because she looked unaesthetic (six to eight years old).
24.4.1898. A stay in Basel, in the autumn of 1897 and 1898, with my relatives (after the completion of high-school education). Great care was taken to entertain me. A certain admiration was shown for my talents. I felt well. My puberty also produced certain timid relations with my girl-cousin D., typical things, completely unconscious.
I took a splendid walk with D. through the vine-covered hills from Weil up to Tüllingen. I can still see the fruit-laden plain spreading broadly at our feet. Many visits to the theatre. Mainly opera. An evening of ballet. I composed many a quatrain to compensate for my too meagre satisfactions. Art as authentic as it was bad.
Bern. 12.12.1897. After a time I once again picked up some of my sketchbooks and leafed through them. In the process I felt something that seemed like hope reawaken in me. By chance I saw my mirror-image in the windowpane and I thought about the man looking out at me. Quite likeable, that fellow on the chair; his head resting against a white pillow, his legs on another chair. The grey book closed, the index finger of one hand inside it.
In the Quarry , 1913. Watercolour on paper on cardboard,
22.4 x 35.3 cm . Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern.
Before the Town , 1915. Watercolour on paper on cardboard,
22.5 x 29.8 cm . The Berggruen Klee Collection,
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.


He remained completely motionless, bathed in soft lamplight. Before this I had often observed him searchingly. Not always with success. But today I understood him.
Bern. 27.4.1898. “Sit down and learn it better!” So it went in the mathematics course; but all that is past and forgotten. Just now the year’s first thunderstorm is raging outside. A fresh wind from the west grazes me, carrying the odour of thyme and the sound of train whistles, playing with my moist hair. Nature does love me! She consoles me and makes promises to me. On such days I am invulnerable.
Outwardly smiling, inwardly laughing more freely, a song in my soul, a twittering whistle on my lips, I cast myself on the bed, stretch, and keep watch over my slumbering strength. Westward, northward, let it drive me wherever it wishes: I have faith!
I wrote a few short stories, but destroyed them all. Anno 1898. Nonetheless, I took myself under my own protection again. The fact that the results are no good is still no proof of ungodly descent. In such a “classical” environment there is no reality to lean on. What nourishment does an elemental drive find in pallid humanism? One is referred exclusively to the clouds. Drive without substance. Exceedingly high mountains with no base.
Retrospective. At first I was a child. Then I wrote nice essays and was also able to do sums (until about my eleventh or twelfth year). Then I developed a passion for girls. Then came the time when I wore my school cap tilted back on my head and only buttoned the lowest button of my coat (fifteen). Then I began to consider myself a landscapist and cursed humanism. I would gladly have left school before the penultimate year, but my parents’ wishes prevented it. I now felt like a martyr. Only what was forbidden pleased me. Drawings and writing. After having barely passed my final examination, I began to paint in Munich.
After I had achieved success as a Knirr student, drawing nudes began to lose some of its glamour, and other matters, problems of existence, became more important than glory in Knirr’s school (a private drawing school run by Heinrich Knirr). Occasionally I even played hooky. Then too, I didn’t in the least see (and I was right) how art could ever come from diligent studies of the nude. This insight, however, was an unconscious one.
Life, of which I knew so little, attracted me more than anything else. Still, I regarded this as a kind of scampishness on my part. It seemed to me that I had no strength of character whenever I heeded the inner voice more than orders from the outside.
In short, I had first of all to become a man: art would then inevitably follow. And, naturally, relations with women were part of it. One of my first acquaintances was Fraulein N., from Halle an der Saale. I considered her – by mistake, to be sure – free and fit to introduce me to those mysteries around which the world, “life”, for better or worse revolves. Much later, when she was no longer important to me, I learned about her unhappy love for a singer. Perhaps this was a good thing for me: this way, the lady couldn’t get her hooks into me.
I had met her in a (mixed) evening course in nude drawing. A daughter of Professor V. in Bern, who knew me by sight from there, suddenly spoke to me. I went over into the ladies’ camp, where the nude model, a mulatto who was sexually very excitable, could be seen from the back. The Swiss girl introduced me to a girl from East Prussia. I pondered whether she was the right subject for me to study. But the stimulus was too weak. The right one was to be introduced to me on the following evening; it was the N. previously mentioned. A blonde, blue-eyed thing, with a soprano voice and more elegance. I stayed near her without further ado and walked next to her on the way home. We admired the wintery beauty of the Leopoldstrasse , whose trees were heavy with snow, glittering in the light cast by magic arc lamps.
Untitled, 1914. Watercolour and plume
on paper on cardboard, 17.1 x 15.8 cm .
Kupferstichkabinett, Kunstmuseum, Basel.
Homage to Picasso , 1914.
Oil on cardboard, 38 x 30 cm . Private collection.


Haller now also came to Munich; he had his way, instead of becoming an architect in Stuttgart. He entered Knirr’s school, and when I arrived, he already felt very much at home there. As a matter of fact, his friendship with “the best student in ten years” had been quite useful to him; he made good use of it when he introduced himself. Besides this, there was his fresh, enterprising nature, which even then could be quite irresistible. His laughter made the studio all the more congenial. Now a group of talented young people, including some Swiss, formed around us. They felt free to take every liberty, particularly that of venting their sarcasm and irony on outsiders.
Retrospective. Inspection of my complete self, said goodbye to literature and music. My efforts to attain more refined sexual experience: abandoned in that one single instance. I hardly think about art, I only want to work at my personality. In this I must be consistent and avoid all public attention. That I’ll eventually express myself through the medium of art is still the most likely outcome.
A little “Leporello catalogue” of all the sweethearts whom I didn’t possess provides an ironical reminder of the great sexual question. The list ends on the initial of the name “Lily” with the remark “wait and see”. I met the lady who was to become my wife in the autumn of 1899, whilst I was playing music.
The conviction that painting is the right profession grows stronger and stronger in me. Writing is the only other thing I still feel attracted to. Perhaps when I am mature I shall go back to it. My relationship to Fräulein Schiwago was very peculiar. I admired her greatly, but without losing control of myself. I probably already had within me too close an attachment to Lily to do so, without guarantees, without risk, just I myself. Moreover, Schiwago at first seemed to be unattainable because it looked as if something existed, or was going on, between Haller and her. (I only learned in 1909 that she didn’t approve of this reticence on my part.)
Often I am possessed by the devil; my bad luck in the sexual realm, so fraught with problems, did not make me better. In Burghausen I had teased large snails in various ways. Now, in the Thun region, lovelier still if that is possible, I am exposed to similar temptations. Innocence irritates me. The birds’ song gets on my nerves. I feel like trampling every worm.
I drew up the outline of a last will. In it I asked that all existing proofs of my artistic endeavours be destroyed. I well knew how meagre and inconsequential it all was in comparison to the possibilities I sensed.
From time to time I collapsed completely into modesty, wished to produce illustrations for humour magazines. Later I might still find occasion to illustrate my own thoughts. The results of such modesty were more or less sophisticated technical-graphic experiments. It is convenient to define a thwarted act of will as a crazy mistake.
This summer leaves me too much time for thinking. I have not got far enough to work without a model and school. Finally evening came, and autumn. As if numbed by the day and its cares I awake and notice that leaves are already falling. And on this soil must I now sow? In winter am I to hope? It is going to be gloomy work. But work, anyway. The comparison of my soul with the various moods of the countryside frequently returns as a motif. My poetic-personal idea of landscape lies at the root of this. “Autumn is here. The current of my soul is followed by stealthy fogs.”
Religious thoughts begin to appear. The natural is the power that maintains. The individual, which destructively rises above the general, falls into sin. There exists, however, something higher yet, which stands above the positive and the negative. It is the almighty power that contemplates and leads this struggle. Before this almighty power I might stand the test, and to stand it ethically was my wish.
Completely drunk one night, I filled my diary with fancies on the subject of Lily. How deeply everything that came from her sank into me. There was even a variation about jealousy in it. Sensuality ran amok. In the final variation words that we had exchanged appeared for the cantus firmus .
Ash Wednesday. The drunkenness is gone, but stronger than my misery is the power of your image, a charming face among masks. Once again the English Garden is the scene of my feelings and confused emotions. I swear, on my not-altogether stainless honour, that I shall soon grow tired. Lily and again Lily. Once more I feel strengthened in my feelings toward her and, shortly thereafter, again shaken. Neither path nor bridge.
As for the effects on my studies, I shall say nothing. She tells me, somewhat formally, that we will continue our duo-playing, the gracious young lady. Nonetheless, I think only of the woman. Nothing else can elicit a reaction from me.
My restless life left a passing trace in my body. Nervous pains in the heart bothered me, especially during my sleep. The heart became the theme of my compositional exercises. Still, I did everything I could to rid myself of this condition, and my future father-in-law achieved a medical triumph with me.
Thoughts about the art of portraiture. Some will not recognise the truthfulness of my mirror. Let them remember that I am not here to reflect the surface (this can be done by the photographic plate), but must penetrate inside. My mirror probes down to the heart. I write words on the forehead and around the corners of the mouth. My human faces are truer than the real ones.
In the spring of 1901 I drew up the following programme: first of all, the art of life; then, as ideal profession, poetry and philosophy; as real profession, the plastic arts; and finally, for lack of an income, drawing illustrations.
I have started a new life. And this time I’ll succeed. I lay low on the ground. All was permitted me I believed, my strength could be savoured to the utmost. I went to the fools’ dance, a dirty knave. The maiden’s love has freed me from such a figure. I recognised my misery, and that half expelled it. Fright pulled me together. I want to become serious and better. The kiss of the dearest woman has taken all distress from me. I will work. I will become a good artist. Learn to sculpt. My aptitude is primarily formal in nature. I carry this recognition with me.
Stuck thought he could advise me to turn to sculpture; should I wish to paint again later, I would find good use for what I had learned. Proof of the fact that he understands nothing about the realm of colour. And he advised me to go to Rümann. As a student of Stuck, I expected to be admitted there without difficulty. However, the old man asked me to pass an entrance examination. I begged to be exempted from it, for the very fact that I should be asked to take one was tantamount in my eyes – and rightly so – to having flunked. But my request got him all excited: “I myself once had to pass an entrance examination.” This had a royal sound. Then he submitted my drawing to sharp criticism; still, to a few of them he granted some merit. Finally I went away without accepting his position on the matter of the examination. Perhaps I did impress him a little after all. Maybe he expected to see me again?
Little Painting of Fir-Trees , 1922.
Oil on cotton on cardboard, 31.6 x 20.2 cm .
Donation of Richard Doetsch-Benziger,
Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel.
Warning of the Ships , 1917. Pen, black ink,
and watercolour on raw white paper,
on rose-dyed handmade paper, 24.2 x 15.6 cm .
Graphische Sammlung, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.
Automated Astronauts , 1918.
Watercolour on paper, 22.5 x 20.3 cm .
Beyeler Foundation, Riehen/Basel.
Angel Serving a Light Breakfast , 1920.
Lithograph, 19.8 x 14.6 cm .
Sprengel Museum, Hanover.


The seven prophetic words of Rümann:
I. I shall let no one tell me what to do;
II. You are not, as I see, a draftsman of the very first rank;
III. This is drawn quite nicely;
IV. This head, however, deserves the adjective “bad”;
V. Only those people are dispensed from a test who have modelled figures for years;
VI. I myself once had to pass a test. (This is where I left.)
VII. Good day, Herr Klee.
Often I said that I served Beauty by drawing her enemies (caricature, satire). But that is not enough. I must shape her directly with the full strength of my conviction. A distant, noble aim. Half asleep, I already set out on that path. When I am awake, it will have to be accomplished. Perhaps the road is longer than my life. He who strives will never enjoy this life peacefully. The first re-formations (mouldings of the newly experienced world) offer a constant contrast with the fullness and freshness of impressions.
Forward, towards mature works. Childhood was a dream, some day all would be accomplished. The period of learning, a time for searching into everything, into the smallest, into the most hidden, into the good and the bad. Then a light is lit somewhere, and a single direction is followed (that stage I now enter; let us call it the time of wandering).
June 1901. Misgivings arise. What had I to offer to Lily? Art did not even feed one man. And so the time came again to think of parting. On the ideal plane a great feeling of strength filled me, because of the victory or because of love. But of what use was it in life? What perfection we reach through love! What an intensification of all things. What a touchstone it is! What a key! Each of these days is a lifetime. If I had to end now, no better end might be imagined.
Retrospect on the artistic beginnings of the past three years. Whatever in these diaries is unclear, confused, and undeveloped seems hardly as repellent, or as ridiculous even, as the first attempts to translate these circumstances into art. A diary is simply not art, but a temporal accomplishment. One thing, however, I must grant myself: the will to attain the authentic was there. Else I might have been content, as a tolerable sketcher of nudes, to turn out compositions depicting Cain and Abel. But for this I was too sceptical. I wanted to render things that could be controlled, and clung only to what I carried within me. The more complicated it seemed to me, as time passed, the madder the compositions. Sexual helplessness bears monsters of perversion. Symposia of Amazons, and other horrible themes.
Before Italy (Summer 1901). The consciousness of strength endured. At first the separation was not overwhelmingly hard to bear. I derived a certain tranquillity from the fact that I had now become a moral person, even on a sexual level. As such, this problem could no longer disturb me. I did not concern myself directly with the fact that there would be no practical solution soon. My spirit was free of such turmoil. I could now devote myself with full concentration to some course of study. The three years in Munich had been necessary to bring me to this point. I now staked everything on Italy. I envisaged the possibility of realising the humanist ideal only outside the field of special study.
I shall look for my God beyond the stars. Whilst I struggled for earthly love, I sought no God. Now that I have it, I must find Him who wrought good upon me whilst I had turned away from Him. How can I recognise Him? He must be smiling over the fool, hence the cooling of gentle winds in the summer night. Mute bliss in thankfulness to Him and a glance toward these mountain tops!
Movement of Vaulted Chambers , 1915.
Watercolour on paper on cardboard, 20 x 25.2 cm .
The Berggruen Klee Collection,
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Winter Day Just Before Noon , 1922.
Oil on paper on cardboard, 29.8 x 45.9 cm .
Kunsthalle Bremen, Bremen.
Versunkene Landschaft (Engulfed Landscape) , 1918.
Watercolour, gouache, and ink on paper, top and bottom
borders in satiny paper, on cardboard, 17.6 x 16.3 cm .
Museum Folkwang, Essen.


Travels in Italy

October 1901 to May 1902
Milan, 22.10.1901. Arrival. Brera: Mantegna; Raphael not particularly well represented. Surprise: Tintoretto. Genoa, arrival by night. The sea under the moon. Wonderful breeze from the sea. Serious mood. Exhausted like a beast of burden by a thousand impressions. Saw the sea by night from a hill, for the first time. The great harbour, the gigantic ships, the emigrants and the longshoremen. The large Southern city.
I had had a rough idea of the sea, but not of the harbour life: railway cars, threatening cranes, warehouses, and people walking along reinforced piers, stepping over ropes. Fleeing from people who try to rent us boats: “The city, the harbour”, “The American warships”, “The lighthouses!”, “The sea!”. The unfamiliar climate. Steamers from Liverpool, Marseilles, Bremen, Spain, Greece, and America. Respect for the wide globe. Certainly several hundred steamers, not to speak of countless sailboats, small steamers, and tugboats. And then the people. Over there, the most outlandish figures with fezzes. Here on the dam, a crowd of emigrants from the South of Italy, piled up (like snails) in the sun, mothers giving the breast, the bigger children playing and quarrelling. A purveyor opens a path for himself through the mob with a steaming plate (frutti di mare) brought from floating kitchens. Where does the striking smell of oil come from? Then the coal-bearers, well-built figures, light-footed and swift, coming down from the coal ship half naked with loads on their backs (hair protected by a rag), climbing up to the pier along a long plank, over to the warehouse to have their load weighed. Then, unburdened, along a second plank into the ship, where a freshly-filled basket is waiting for them. Thus people in an unbroken circle, tanned by the sun, blackened by the coal, wild, contemptuous. Over there, a fisherman. The disgusting water can’t contain anything good. As everywhere else, nothing is ever caught. Fishing gear: a thick string, a stone tied to it, a chicken foot, a shellfish. On the piers stand houses and warehouses. A world in itself. This time we are the loafers in its midst. And still we are working, at least with our legs.
High houses (up to thirteen floors), extremely narrow alleys in the old town. Cool and smelly. In the evening, thickly filled with people. In the daytime, more with youngsters. Their swaddling clothes wave in the air like flags over a celebrating town. Strings hang from window to window across the street. By day, stinging sun in these alleys, the sparkling, metallic reflections of the sea; below, a flood of light from all sides: dazzling brilliance. Add to all this, the sound of a hurdy-gurdy, a picturesque trade. Children dancing all around. Theatre turned real. I have taken a certain amount of melancholy along with me over the Gotthard Pass. Dionysos doesn’t have a simple effect on me. The sea voyage was an experience. Big, nocturnal Genoa with its lights numerous as stars gradually vanished, absorbed by the light of the open sea, as one dream flows into another. We sailed at ten o’clock on the Gottardo, stayed on deck until midnight. Then into our second-class cabin.
Livorno dull. We fled as quickly as possible in a little horse and carriage. The horse guessed our thoughts. The landing had been an amusing business. The boatmen, who fought each other with their oars: una lira, of course. The staircase from the water, the customs office. Much crowding at the railway station. Haller didn’t have the courage to ask for tickets. He put his lips close to my ear and instructed me stutteringly: “1. P-P-Pisa; 2. q-quando p-parte il t-treno?” The words lay, in fact, quite clumsily on the tongue. I push boldly on. Regarding point 1, I was asked “andate o ritorno?”, which I did not understand; regarding point 2, the gruff reply was “alle mezz”, which was not so simple either. This was my first lesson in practical Italian. And the train, which runs every half hour, was ready and took us to Pisa through rather unattractive country.
Sailing Ships , 1927. Pencil and watercolour on paper
on cardboard, 22.8 x 30.2 cm . Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern.
View of a Harbour at Night , 1917. Gouache and oil
on paper coated with chalk and glue, 21 x 15.5 cm .
Musée d ’ art moderne et contemporain, Strasbourg.


We stayed in Pisa from nine in the morning until five in the afternoon. Besides the Duomo, there is little to see; at a pinch the Piazza dei Cavalieri might be added. The Duomo is marvellous. How did the giant get into this burg? This spectacular display takes place quite a distance from the centre of town, like a circus putting on its show at the entrance of a village. We had to climb to the top of the leaning tower, listen to the echo in the Baptistery, etc. Afterwards our energy was exhausted. Instead of looking for a restaurant we bought some chestnuts and sat down on a bench. The train speeding toward Rome, what a sensation that was.
Arrival on October 27, 1901, about midnight. We celebrated the event in a hotel near the railway station by a drunken bout on three bottles of Barbera (red wine). On the second day I had already rented a room in the heart of town, Via del Archetto, 20, IV, for 30 lire per month. Rome captivates the spirit rather than the senses. Genoa is a modern city, Rome a historic one; Rome is epic, Genoa dramatic. That is why it cannot be taken by storm. Impatience drove me at once to the famous sights, first to Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and to Raphael’s “Stanze”. Michelangelo had the effect of a good beating on the student of Knirr and Stuck. He accepted it and discovered that Perugino and Botticelli fared no better. Raphael’s frescoes stood up under the test, but not without my intending them to do so. Less violent was the impression made by the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius and the statue of Saint Peter in Saint Peter’s. His toes, worn away by kisses, add to the effect. Marcus Aurelius is concentrated art; with Peter, faith also has a share. Not that I understand the believers who busy themselves about his foot. But they are there anyway. Who cares about Marcus Aurelius? The primitive stiffness of the bronze of Peter, like a piece of eternity in the whirl of the accidental (October 31st).
2.11.1901. Went out to Via Appia to become acquainted with the “environs of Rome”. As we came to the city limits the Lateran palace diverted us from our project. Also, the mother of all churches was next to it. The Byzantine mosaics in the choir: two delicious deer. After this hors d’oeuvre, we went over to the Christian museum in the Lateran. Sculptures in a naive style whose great beauty stems from the forcefulness of the expression. The effect of these works, which are after all imperfect, cannot be justified on intellectual grounds, and yet I am more receptive to them than to the most highly praised masterpieces. In music too I had already had a few similar experiences. Naturally I am not behaving like a snob. But the Pietà in Saint Peter’s left no trace on me, whilst I can stand spellbound before some old, expressive Christ. In Michelangelo’s frescos, too, something spiritual exceeds the artistic value. The movement and the hill-like musculature are not pure art, but are also more than pure art. The ability to contemplate pure form I owe to my impressions of architecture: Genoa – San Lorenzo; Pisa – the Duomo. Rome – Saint Peter’s. My feeling is often in sharp opposition to Burckhardt’s Cicerone .
My hatred for the Baroque after Michelangelo might be explained by the fact that I noticed how much I myself had been caught up in the Baroque until now. Despite my recognition that the noble style disappears with the perfection of the means (one sole point of overlapping: Leonardo), I feel drawn back to the noble style, without being convinced that I shall ever get along with it. Boldness and fancy are not called for, now that I should be, and want to be, an apprentice. Later we came upon the Via Latina instead of the Via Appia, where a good lunch was waiting for us in an inn (75 centimes, including a pint of wine). It was plentiful enough for me to feed two cats and for Haller to feed a dog; I suspect that some opposition to me was mixed up with his motives. The rustic idylls in the inns here are charming. If I am to work as I already can, then I must come out here sometime with an etching plate. Traffic of donkeys on these classic roads. Character of the suburb. Wineshops and kitchens. My horror of seeing animals tortured.
Villa R , 1919. Oil on cardboard, 26.5 x 22.4 cm.
Öffentliche Kunstsammlung, Kunstmuseum, Basel.
Railway Station L112, 14 km , 1920. Watercolour and
Indian ink on paper on cardboard, 12.3 x 21.8 cm .
Hermann und Margrit Rupf-Stiftung, Kunstmuseum Bern, Bern.


Haller perches in a sombre studio. What dust and fleas! Once I came in whilst he was developing photographs of his Russian girlfriend Sch. in the chamber pot. He wants to push his Cycle to the Sun to completion. His energy can’t be doubted. He was fooled by a ravishing little model. She said she was not a professional model; she claimed she had overcome her scruples only to save her mother and four brothers and sisters from starvation (a letter to the Pope had brought no results). In the evening the little ones cry: Mamma, fame! The mother has almost lost her mind as a result. Too proud to beg. One day Haller wanted to pay her and sent her out to change 50 lire; she brought back only 45, which he nobly didn’t count until later. We now saw through the whole scheme. And yet she was such a splendid model. Stood undaunted on a platform of tables and chairs and ecstatically spread her arms to the sun.
This week again we conquered another piece of Rome. The Pinacotheca in the Vatican and the Galleria Borghese. In the Vatican, the utmost solidity, only few pictures. An unfinished Leonardo (“St. Jerome”), a couple of Peruginos, a priest in solemn dress by Titian. Raphael is more difficult to do justice to. Snatched away right in the middle of an overwhelming effort. The possibilities indisputable, the actual production too much that of a disciple. Burckhardt is less just toward Botticelli (only one page in the Cicerone ).
I have now reached the point where I can look over the great art of antiquity and its Renaissance. But, for myself, I cannot find any artistic connection with our own times. And to want to create something outside of one’s own age strikes me as suspect. Great perplexity. This is why I am again all on the side of satire. Am I to be completely absorbed by it once more? For the time being it is my only creed. Perhaps I shall never become positive? In any case, I will defend myself like a wild beast. More and more Renaissance, more and more Burckhardt. I already speak his language, for example. One doesn’t like to think, in this connection, of the Gothic garments of the Germans. This doesn’t apply to the Italian Dürer, the Munich Apostles are clothed in exemplary fashion. Similar unfairness towards Baroque. That Greece existed is no longer believed. Bernini a raven foreboding misfortune. November 15th. Important concert in the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma.
Collection of ancient art in the Palazzo degli Conservatori: “The She Wolf”, “The Remover of the Thorn” and of particular interest to the connoisseur of nudes, “The Statues of the Muses”, a rotating female figure, perfect as nature. The German turns it. His bride sits on a bench and admires him. The Italian makes silly jokes. The Englishman reads his guide, emitting noble sounds. You are never alone in museums.
Galleria Barberini. I have never liked Guido Reni, though his deeply felt “Cenci” is moving. One is involved as a human being by this portrait; it becomes a little dramatic scene. This unhappy love is felt precisely because it is a picture. The shape of the eyelids might move us to soft lamentation. The small mouth is at once the pole of suffering and the pole of bliss.
I am working on a composition. At an earlier stage there were many figures. I called it “Moralising on Stray Paths”. (Stuck calls a picture: “Sin”.) Now the approach is satirical. The figures have been concentrated into three. The way of love. Now I have left out the woman. The problem is simpler and yet no less demanding. The woman is to be expressed triply in the attitude of the three. I must concentrate on working more intimately; there is not much ammunition at hand. Then why the big gun?
22.11.1901. We wandered far out, over the Aventine (Basilica Santa Sabina, splendidly primitive, with open wooden roof supports, mosaic pavement) and down to Porta San Paolo. At some distance from it stands another mighty basilica, unfortunately renovated after several fires, cold. On the way back we followed the course of the Tiber, or more exactly, went upstream. Just before the last bridge were anchored steamers and sailboats that had been dragged this far. The nearness of the sea. Near the appealing temple of Vesta an old man fell down with a large basket of oranges and lay there, looking at the rolling fruits. But already a number of children had come running to the rescue and filled up the basket again with great speed. First I had let myself be contaminated by Haller’s unquenchable laughter, but later we thought about the nice traits of these people. Triglie are quite delicious fish (reddish). Eating and drinking. Thinking as little as possible whilst doing so, as if one were somewhere in Corsica or in Sardinia. And when, besides, a green salad, unimaginably delicate, happens to be served! O this South!
December 2nd. Today they took my cat away from me and I had to look on whilst it disappeared in a sack. I understood at last what words had not succeeded in making clear to me. It was a cat that had been borrowed to catch mice for a period of time. And I had already given away my heart.
3.12.1901. Friendship with Haller not always untroubled. Incentive to rivalry in art. Recognition that he is more advanced in the domain of colour. Realisation that a long struggle lies in store for me in this field. “But in drawing, I correct him.”
7.12.1901. Two letters and two postcards travel northward, they entail no answer. I want to know that most of the threads that bind me to the past are severed. Perhaps these are the symptoms of incipient mastery. I take leave from those who taught me. Ungratefulness to school! What is left for me now? Only the future. I violently prepare myself for it. I did not have many friends; when I ask for spiritual friendship, I am almost forsaken. I still have confidence in Bloesch, Lotmar has great possibilities, but my relationship with Haller is strange. We don’t fit together. We’ll probably always trust each other to display a certain honourable tactfulness of behaviour. But we have no closer ties, and perhaps never had. He’s a rather primitive fellow, is able to concentrate easily and be all of a piece. Can be measured. Not I. With such great differences we would never have joined had it not been for our common course of study. I’ve known him since he was six, and yet we made use of each other only when, two or three years before his graduation, he decided to become a painter. At that time he approached me and joined me in hunting for landscape motifs. Brack is valuable, and yet there are barriers between us. Unfortunately one always has to take into account the moods and manias of this eccentric. I’ll willingly renounce many perfectly good friends. My teacher Jahn is of a more paternal character. I want to have nothing more to do with feminine friendships.
15.12.1901. Rome’s youngest museum, the National Museum in Diocletian’s Thermae. Part of it is housed in Michelangelo’s great cloister. Simply to walk here is beautiful enough. An orange grove with hundreds of fruits. The arrangement of the works of art is nowhere so carefully planned as here; they are enjoyed andante . The statues are not treated like propped-up bowling pins. Each piece occupies its proper place. My feeling for bronzes is growing. Ancient sculpture at the Vatican. I found myself more mature in my growing admiration for the Apollo Belvedere. I already loved the Muses clearly. No feeling for the Laocöon group (the thorax of one of the boys is said to be uniquely beautiful). New understanding for the Cnidian Venus. Here, in agreement with Burckhardt. I own a series of the most beautiful photos of ancient statuary... I never tire of spreading them out before me. It purifies me of certain desires. I flirt (with Muses) and I am the better for it. I no longer believe in the banishment from paradise.
Where? , 1920. Oil and pencil
on paper on cardboard, 23.5 x 29.5 cm .
Pinacoteca Comunale Casa Rusca, Locarno.
The Golden Fish , 1925.
Oil and watercolour on paper on carton,
49.6 x 69.2 cm . Kunsthalle, Hamburg.
Florentine Villa District , 1926.
Oil on cardboard, 49.5 x 36.5 cm .
Centre Georges Pompidou,
Musée national d ’ art moderne, Paris.


In January I’ll join the Association of German Artists in order to get back to drawing from nature. When I am back in Bern next winter I’ll have time and opportunity to learn anatomy very thoroughly, like a medical student. Once I know that, I’ll know everything. To be independent of these horrible models! For satirists too like to be free and independent. Now, thunder is rumbling again, most strangely, as if below the ground, faintly and intensely, making everything tremble. And this at Christmas! Earthquake atmosphere.
Schiwago is a serious person, I don’t know why a certain tension existed between us. Wassiliew had more talent. She also made good drawings and expressive caricatures. An extremely attractive personality but, unfortunately, as poor as a church mouse. It puts a certain pressure on her. Last winter, I am told, she suffered from her breakup with Haller. She couldn’t be to him what he, as an uncomplicated person, demanded of the woman he loved. For this she still lacked the courage, which only a certain maturity provides. She had tried to be friends. But of course that never works once Eros has made his appearance, even though it is unconsummated. He wants to grow to the point where he will have his way once and for all. And so they parted (as Haller tells it).
29.12.1901. Today I informed Haller that I had dreamt about Fräulein Wassiliew, whereupon he claimed that he had dreamt about “You”. A funny moment, provided he was not just parrying. After that, he remained silent for some time; evidently he was still preoccupied, not by this incident, but by the affair it alluded to. In the Palazzo degli Conservatori he noted that he was not sufficiently receptive. Whilst we ate he spoke again of Wassiliew and confided in me in a way he never had before. He too had already known her in Bern (I, since childhood); they painted landscapes together in the neighbouring countryside. In Munich he brought her to Knirr’s and followed her everywhere. For a time they both lived in the same boarding house, until it went broke; that is probably where they saw the most of each other. Occasionally they also came to my studio on Amalienstrasse ; I was the right person to play the third man because I was having an affair, and indeed it was always very cosy and pleasant. Later Schiwago joined us and the four of us were often together, and a fine clearness and candour reigned among us. But only temporarily. Haller became secretive and sullen. The cause of it, I suppose, is to be found in the confession he made to me today. During the summer of 1900 he wrote passionate letters to Wassiliew, then in Basel. One of them went: “If you wish to remain a virgin, you must not see me any more”. She was such a good daughter that she asked Father Wassiliew for advice! Naturally he didn’t want to send her back to Munich. But then she promised not to see Haller anymore and was allowed to return to Munich. An attempt in Munich to be “friends” failed of course, and now Wassiliew herself asked that they separate, because of her promise. Haller now moved closer to Schiwago. Probably Wassiliew had told her about their anguish, and Schiwago felt called upon to act the motherly adviser; such a role surely appealed to her great goodness. This got her quite intimately acquainted with Haller. Perhaps he hoped to find a substitute in her. At any rate, he withdrew from us in the process and also drew Schiwago away from me. Without causing me harm, for I myself was going my own separate way. Only Brack was terribly furious about the stealthy ways of his friend Mändu.
Today Haller claims that he had no love relationship with Schiwago but only friendship, or at most a love relationship without any sensuality. Because Schiwago, he says, has no sensual leanings whatsoever. Can such a thing be? Now his hopes are fixed on Wassiliew again, because Schiwago has returned to Russia. I believe he would be capable of marrying Wassiliew if he could afford to. In short, the prospect for him is not really very splendid. Haller drew closer to me in the last year of high school and I responded. At that time I was richer and more mature. In Munich I still was, at first. That kept him in check and made him respect me. But suddenly he became a man; he managed it abruptly and joltingly, because he had to conquer his difficult nature. A sharp mind helped him in the process. I remained copious and confused, which created disharmony. He became impossible in a hundred little ways and upset many good elements in our friendship. I still want to do my best for him, as long as it is within my own interests. However, the sharp eye that watches over the limits of these interests sours friendship disturbingly.
On January 1 st , for the first time I again drew from nature: a foot. The Association of German Artists has a comfortable place, only somewhat narrow. A handsome and well-knit male model was posing. I have progressed after all while not working from nature. Life-drawing is almost a pleasant distraction. It became my best foot, not life-size, far from it. Haller worked on a large scale; his attention was drawn to the fact that his way of shaping forms was Baroque, and he was urged to overcome this tendency by observing the good and bad examples of it in Rome.
Sunday, January 5 th , we went up for the first time to the Palatine, the crown of the seven hills. A brilliant day. Vegetation grows and blooms there the year round, as if this hill had a privileged climate. Pines with thick crowns grow there, and fairylike palm trees, and grotesque cactuses looking like strange immigrants. I understand the emperors who swaggered up here. The view of the Forum must be one of the most splendid in the world. Nowadays this ruinous mass could have a shattering effect on us, if fabulous light didn’t atone for it, as happened yesterday. Domus Livia has beautiful murals, a foretaste of Pompeii. The vessels for oil and wine are still in the kitchen. The wine-jugs are pointed at the bottom, so they can be buried in the earth easily. The expanse of the palace of Augustus! Or just the race track! Around this gigantic ruin the laughing splendour of modern Rome lies like a huge wreath. St. Peter’s, in the distance, whose dome would be a triumph over decay, if the eternal sky didn’t spread its vault above it. All things have their time; this marvel will suffer a catastrophe too. And it’s useless that the individual’s fame survives. Caught up in these thoughts, I begin to feel downcast. Wouldn’t it be wise to enjoy your little bit of life naively, somewhat as the seemingly impervious modern Roman does who strolls this ground with a tune on his lips. I don’t hate him from envy, but today there is some envy in my feelings. (Better to sleep, best not to have been born.) These are, not my best, but amongst my most lucid moments. And now I ought to have “You”, to forget it all.
The Tolstoy and Murger books arrived. Bohème. A sun that warms only superficially. No ray of sunlight reaches down to the depths of the human condition, where I am fond of sojourning. A kind of reading indulged in on the side, like a cigarette, like a daydream at sunset. But then, I do have time for leisurely reading. Aristophanes’ Acharneans, a most enjoyable play. Plautus’ Bramarbas doesn’t stand up next to it, a much poorer sort. I would also like to read Zola’s Rome here. A third person joined us: Schmoll von Eisenwert. Haller already knows him, I had only heard about him from Trappt. I am pleased that he also is an engraver. I hope to benefit from his technical experience. He draws on aluminium plates with pen or with lithographic pencil.
14.1.1902. Yesterday I saw la belle Otero in the Variété Salone Marguerita. First, a half-dozen singers, five of whom were not at all unpleasant. Then Otero; at first she sang in a rather poor voice, posing in exquisite attitudes. When she started playing the castanets she seemed unsurpassable. A short, breathless pause, and a Spanish dance began. Now at last the real Otero! She stands there, her eyes searching and challenging, every inch a woman, frightening as in the enjoyment of tragedy. After the first part of the dance she rests. And then mysteriously, as it were autonomously, a leg appears clothed in a whole new world of colours. An unsurpassably perfect leg. It has not yet abandoned its relaxed pose, when, alas, the dance begins again, even more intensely. The pleasure becomes so strange that one is no longer conscious of it as such. Apart from what is after all of an orgiastic character, the artist can learn much here. Of course there would need to be still another dancer if one is not only to feel the law of movement, but also to understand it. The point at issue is perhaps only the complication of linear relations that subsist between bodies at rest. This topic for the time being constitutes my real field of research.
Italian City , 1928. Ink and watercolour on paper
on cardboard, top and bottom borders with gouache,
coloured pencils and pencil, 33 x 23.4 cm . Long term
loan from a private collection, Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern.
Picture of a Fish , 1925. Oil transfer drawing,
pen and watercolour on plaster priming on gauze,
on blue, primed cardboard; original painted frame strips,
64 x 43 cm . The Rosengart Collection, Lucerne.


Schmoll is a fine comrade. His drawings of landscapes are undertaken with the greatest love and executed with the utmost delicacy. He is a landscape painter through and through, even in character. A poet who stands in an intimate relation with nature... Haller can’t understand him. I try to feel my way into this sensibility of his, since something can be picked up from him here and there, in regard to the expressiveness of materials, for example. Nöther I only visit out of politeness, at first without my violin. First, take the time to give the place a sniffing-over. But why did God put this sweet, stupid Maria in front of us? Girls, so goes the talk, are hard to come by here. And yet they are more appetising than those in Munich. If only for their clean underwear!
Thursday, January 23 rd . I drew a few queerly-shaped tree trunks in the park of the Villa Borghese. The linear principles here are similar to those of the human body, only more tightly related. What I have thus learned I at once put to use in my compositions. Every evening, regular life-drawing course from six to eight at the artists’ association. My earlier studies of the nude are more effective, my current ones are unattractive analyses of forms. Ancient Italy remains the chief thing for me even now, the main basis. There is a certain melancholy in the fact that no present lives up to this past. It is probably ironic that ruins should be admired more than what has been well preserved.
I work with tempera, using pure water, to avoid all technical difficulties. In this way everything goes slowly and well, one thing after the other. Two or three days for a head, a day for each arm and each leg, a day for the feet, the same for the waist, and every appendage a day each. Haller proceeds quite differently, because he is striving for a kind of organic colour effect. In my case the colour only decorates the plastic impression. Soon I shall make the attempt to transpose nature directly into my present creative means. Work goes more freely on an empty belly, but it easily leads to forsaking the sterner kind of morality.

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